A Girl’s Own Room

My sister’s room was next to mine, but non-sister girl’s bedrooms were still mysterious places to me. According to the pop music of the 1970s boys sometimes didn’t leave them alive.

Download: Angie Baby – Helen Reddy (mp3)

Commercial Break

This ad is a classic example of turning rebellion into money, in this case using women’s lib to sell booze. These ads are never aimed at people who already are adventurous, rebellious rule-breakers, but instead they’re for people who want to be like that. The message is always the same: Drink this, eat that, wear this, listen to that band, and you will be a cool person. One of the good things about getting older is not caring too much about that anymore, which is why advertisers don’t care about my demographic either.

The “until I discovered Smirnoff” campaign was so famous it inspired jokes like “I thought Cunnilingus was an Irish airline until I discovered Smirnoff” but was stopped in 1975 when the British government passed a law against alcohol advertising that claimed drinking the product would lead to sexual or social success. This is a witty ad but it does unfortunately equate women’s liberation with being sexually available, especially once you’ve got a few vodkas inside you.

Smirnoff certainly wasn’t the first company to co-op youth or social movements for the purposes of capitalism but I wonder who was. Probably someone in the 1920s using the Bright Young Things to sell headache powders.

Let’s get funky.

Download: Liberation Conversation – Marlena Shaw (mp3)

Chicks dig swimmers

I’m teaching my son to swim at the moment. I might have to show him this very informative film from my youth so he realizes that aquatic ability is just as important as good hair and a motorbike when it comes to impressing the ladies.

Download: Ha Ha I’m Drowning – The Teardrop Explodes (mp3)

Music was her first love

I’ve been out with plenty of girls who loved music and could tell their House from their Garage and their Orange Juice from their Jam — I even married one — but I’ve never met one who rose to the obsessive level of nerdy music anorak that men do. The same with films, comics, and sport.

I know they exist. I have occasionally seen a girl in a second-hand record shop intently digging through the boxes, and every man in the place will be staring at her as if they’ve spotted some rare bird — because they have (and probably wish she could be their girlfriend). But usually, whatever gene it is that turns men into anal trainspotters who can name every Clash b-side, women don’t have it.

Obviously this is a sweeping generalization and I don’t intend to be sexist in any way. It’s a compliment really, High Fidelity couldn’t have been written about a woman because they just aren’t that sad and ridiculous.

The young lady above should be able to tell Mike that this is a classic dance track from 1984. Then she should break up with him.

Download: Music Is The Answer – Colonel Abrams (mp3)

Deal Breakers

I’ve broken up with girls for lots of reasons in the past (or given them the Spanish Archer as we used to say), there have even been a few that have broken up with me — the nerve! Most of my relationships have ended with more of a whimper than a bang, slowly fizzling out when the initial spark faded so I don’t have too many dramatic stories to tell, but there was one girl who I caught on the phone having a secret, intimate chat with another bloke in the middle of the night in my own kitchen while she was spending the night at my place. That’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been involved in a get-the-fuck-out! shouting match with a girl and I hope you agree it was perfectly reasonable of me in that situation.

But what about the unreasonable causes? For a while I went out with a girl who told me she voted Conservative (this was when Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister) and an American who said she thought Ronald Reagan was a great President. Though I didn’t, I hasten add, dump either of these girls on the spot, the thought did cross my mind that this might be grounds for terminating the relationship. Dodgy politics are one thing, but what if — horror of horrors — she had really bad taste in music?

I’ve been lucky in that regard, my long-term relationships (all three of them including the missus) have been with girls who shared roughly the same (impeccable) taste as me, but at college I briefly went out with a girl who liked… Chris De Burgh. This devastating information was given to me by a friend of hers before our first date who passed it on as if she was telling me the girl was a Neo-Nazi or liked to drown kittens — “she’s a nice girl, but…” Sadly she turned out to be a little dull and personality-free so I only went out with her three times, but I wonder if my opinion of her was tarnished by what I knew. Did knowing that she liked Chris De Burgh make her boring to me or did only boring people like Chris De Burgh in the first place? It’s a chicken-and-egg situation! I think I even avoided the “what kind of music do you like?” conversation with her because I’d have to fight the urge to shout HE’S SHIT!!! which would ruin any chance of a second date or getting her into bed (I didn’t), but I suppose if the relationship had lasted I would have had to cross that bridge at some point. I can’t even remember her name now but she has forever gone down in my memory as “the Chris De Burgh fan” I went out with.

Is there any group or singer so bad that they would be grounds for dumping a girl? I think the only answer to that question is “depends how good-looking she is.”

Download: Love’s Gone Bad – Chris Clark (mp3)
Buy: Soul Sounds (album)

Shock Horror Probe

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the new film by acclaimed documentary-maker Errol Morris was about the Joyce McKinney story which dominated the British press in 1977 — when they weren’t frothing at the mouth over the Sex Pistols, that is. It’s a doozy of a story too, involving a former beauty queen who became obsessed with a Mormon missionary, followed him to England where she kidnapped him and handcuffed him to a bed (with mink-lined cuffs) in a Dorset cottage for three days while she forced him to have sex with her (according to him anyway, McKinney always claimed it was consensual). He eventually escaped, she was arrested but skipped bail, fled the country, and was found in Atlanta a week later hiding out disguised as a nun.

It really doesn’t get much more perfectly tabloid than that so it’s no wonder Fleet Street had a collective orgasm over it, especially when at the centre of the story was a colourful, curvy blond given to statements like “I loved him so much that I would have skiied naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he had asked me to.”

But perhaps the most surprising thing about McKinney is how completely forgotten she is (or was, before this movie.) Despite the lurid, you-couldn’t-make-it-up nature of her story she vanished and tumbled down the memory hole pretty soon after she left England (though she continued with her highly eccentric behaviour.), even people who were around in England in 1977 might have a hard time remembering what she was infamous for. That’s how things were in the old-media world of the 1970s, only one cheapo book was published about the case and yesterday’s tabloid sensation quickly became tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.

She obviously picked the wrong decade (wrong century, actually) to kidnap a Mormon missionary and chain him to a bed. Today there are plenty of ways for a person to milk their Warholian fifteen minutes for all they’re worth and even people who don’t seem to actually do anything can become world-famous, so the sky should be the limit for a character like Joyce to turn her notoriety into money and celebrity: hire Max Clifford to keep her in the papers, a reality television show, a tell-all autobiography, her own line of fitness videos, make-up, shoes, perfume, and probably her own brand of fur-lined handcuffs to sell on QVC too.

Now we need someone to make movies about Lord Lucan and John Stonehouse.

Download: Sunday Papers – Joe Jackson (mp3)

It’s just music!

In the history of cinema few films have nailed what men are like the way Diner did. I’ve never been this bad (my records aren’t alphabetized for a start) but, you know, I can relate.

The Birds and The Bees

I can’t remember how and when I found out how babies were made but I distinctly remember not knowing. When I was very young there was a rumour going around my Primary School that the older sister of a friend of mine was on something called “the Pill” and while I had no idea what “the Pill” was I gathered it was something a bit scandalous and to do with having a baby. So my innocent mind put 2 and 2 together and came up with 3: for a while I actually thought a girl got pregnant by taking a pill. But back then the thought of just kissing a girl scared me out of my short trousers – I’d run a mile when they started playing kiss chase – so God knows how I’d have reacted to the idea that grown ups did, you know, that.

While I knew nothing of the intimate details of love I did actually have my first official “girlfriend” at the age of 10, though to be honest she was the one who asked me out. Her name was Simone Palmley (Simone sounds so exotic now, but we pronounced it See-mon because we were a bit common), a girl at my school who I was told fancied me rotten and one day she came up to me in the playground and asked me out. Now Simone was a nice-looking girl who also happened to be famous among the boys at school for being rather, um….well-developed for her age (“Blimey, she’s got bigger ones than me!” my mum said after she met her), so you’d think my reply would have been “Phwooooaar yes!” but instead I think I turned bright red and was so tongue-tied I had to be bullied into saying yes by her mates.

But at that age girls are scary creatures, they mature faster than us boys and are into things like clothes and make-up and kissing (yuck!) while we’re still snotty oiks with pea shooters who’d rather be playing football. Simone was especially scary to a nervous Nellie like me, she looked so damn womanly, the dark-haired, curvy siren of the school playground who seemed 10 going on 26. I never knew what to do with myself (or her) when she was around, during that summer when we were officially “going out” (which mostly involved going swimming at the local baths together) I could barely work up the courage to hold her hand and think I only kissed her twice, both times a hurried peck on the lips. Is 10 too young for furtive gropings or snogging sessions on the back row of the pictures? It was for me, but kids these days are probably indulging in three-ways at that age.

A few years later I found out that quite a few others had gone where I feared to tread and my Simone had seemingly been out with half the boys in my year at Secondary School. Little was I to know then but this was to become the defining characteristic of my future experience with the ladies: kicking myself over golden opportunities missed because I was such a pathetic twerp and wistful thoughts of “if I knew then what I know now”.

Download: Girls – Moments and Whatnauts (mp3)

This seems like a very “school playground” record to me, I can’t really explain why but it’s probably just because it was a hit in 1974 when I was, you know, a kid at school.

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com




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